Gavin Foster reports on the 33rd Ticky Donovan Summer Course (2009).

GET this date in your diary - June 26 to July 3, 2010. It’s the date of the 34th Ticky Donovan OBE Summer Course.

No matter what’s been said or what you think you’ve heard in the past, make no mistake, this year’s was one of the best ever so you would be mad to miss out. Don’t take my word for it, have a google and read the many blogs, forums and even the facebook ‘we love the summer course’ site that has been set up to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

And the plaudits are showing no signs of damping down and the man at the helm of one of the world’s biggest and most successful karate courses for 33 years has pledged to make it even better. Sensei Donovan said: “The feedback from the course has been fantastic. I’ve never had such a response for many years. People are already booked up for next year. The response has been so great I’m in the process of setting up the Ticky Donovan Summer Course website to get the message out there to let everyone know it’s for all styles of all grades and all ages. You’ve only got to look at the list of winners in the competitions of the week to see how many different styles picked up accolades. We’ve all had such a lift and I’m sure next year’s course will be even bigger and better.”

Some 120 or so students gathered once more at the caravan park in St Osyth, near Clactonon-Sea for the 2009 summer course. This year saw a return of some of the other styles that have graced the event for the last three decades. The course, like karate, cuts all boundaries of background and age - with little ones as young as six training along many reaching into their 70s.

The annual meet and greet on the field at 7pm on Saturday night prompted prayers for great weather and the spirits consumed in the bar that night must have worked their magic because the sun came out.

At 7.30 on Sunday morning at line up it was the first chance for many to see the formidable line up of instructors whose talent would be on display for the week. Senseis Ticky Donovan (OBE), 8th Dan, Dave Hazard, 7th Dan, Greg Francis, 5th Dan, Eddie Gillespie, 5th Dan, Lee Smith, 4th Dan and last but not least, Jonathan Mottram, 4th Dan. – what a line up. And so down to business.

DAY 1:

Tony Spinks took the warm up and reminded the bleary eyed while we were all there and what a first a day it was to be. Greg Francis was first up for the black belts – ever eager and keen to pass on his knowledge and experience in kumite. Hungry for more, dan-grade students were treated to two more sessions on Sunday. Firstly sensei Hazard. To watch and listen and learn from Dave Hazard is an absolute thrill and pleasure. His karate is simply awesome. If anyone wants to get into the debate about karate not being able to match other martial arts in terms of its effectiveness just see this man in action and any questions or doubts that may have entered your head will disappear. He shows why karate is the ultimate fighting art and is able to guide you on a path to believe it can be the same for you.

A karate feast for the black belts was finished with the finest dessert with the man himself, sensei Donovan. Sensei Donovan’s talents are undoubted and have been celebrated and applauded across the globe for decades. But for me, and for many others I speak to, it is the way he continues to motivate and inspire me to achieve greater things in karate each time I have the privilege to train with him that make him unrivalled. Other student grade groups got a chance to train with the other instructors on the first day. Instructors moved around the grade groups throughout the week, giving all students a chance to train with and learn from them all.

DAY 2:

Sensei Gillespie was next up with the black belts on Monday morning. And again it was about taking the fundamentals and applying them in the real world. It might be the prettiest – but I guarantee it will work. Take it from someone who has been on the receiving end on many occasions. A change to this year’s programme saw senior kumite slotted into Monday afternoon with Sarah Kemp, who was also awarded her 4th Dan on the course, taking the honours in the ladies black belt. In the men’s, it was the time for the up-and-coming stars to show off their talents. ASK’s Dave Wesgarth took 1st in the U-21s, with Ishinryu’s Mitchell Scotcher claiming gold after taking third in the U-21 event. Another session brought Monday to a close.

DAY 3:

It was an 8am start for the annual fun run, around two-and-half miles with young and old taking part. Super-fit Sarah Kemp warmed everyone up and then proceeded to romp home in first in the women’s race – oh yes and complained because she was beaten by two of the men! Early afternoon gave the opportunity for fighters, judges and referees to brush up on their skills with an eagerly attended course run by Mike Tointon. Some 50 or more students took up the opportunity for the course and full marks went out to Mike for his guidance and instruction, not only on the course, but throughout the competitions during the week. Everyone agreed that his contribution was an excellent inclusion to the course and big thank you from everyone to Mike.

Tuesday once again saw the opportunity to take part in Greg Francis’s amazing Fit2Fite class. For fighting fitness, coordination and stamina Fit2Fite is the business and as anyone who has tried it will testify – it isn’t for the faint hearted.

DAY 4:

It’s Wednesday and the whole place is buzzing, the atmosphere is simply electric and the camaraderie is growing by the day. We’re still going strong in training and it was back for more at 7.30am. Today played host to the kata competition and the women’s event was the highlight for all. Fresh from taking gold at the Austrian Open the previous weekend, and a string of other titles under her belt this year, young Emma Lucraft took the honours again with some stunning kata. She is undoubtedly a star of the future is she continue to go the way is going. But her hard work and dedication is matched by that from her parents without whose support she would ever be able to achieve what her dreams. And this is what also makes the summer course special. They and many other families come along to watch, support and enjoy what was truly a memorable week. Another rising star, Jack Dixon – watch out sensei Mottram – took the honours in the men’s black belt.

Sensei Smith offered the more energetic the option of a pad work session at 1pm before we are all at it again on the field for final session of the day at 4pm and then it was fun time at the fancy dress night. It was a fantastic night with all the students and families joining in the fun. But I’m still traumatised at the site of sensei Mottram dressed as a sexy Snow White! It was just wrong.

DAY 5:

A chance to sleep off the night before the junior kumite competition got into swing. Cheered on by their clubs and families, the youngsters really got stuck in and showed excellent spirit and determination. Their effort and the support once again summed up the ethos of the week – it was tremendous. At 1pm, Tony Spinks and I were also asked to help out with some instruction with a padwork session. Around 35 students turned out to train which we were both humbled by. Everyone appeared to have a great session and I can honestly say the honour was probably the proudest moment of my karate career and I’m sure I speak for Tony as well in that. Still spinning from the high, it was back in the lines and another great session – to end another great day.


The mood was subdued in the morning – quite simply because no one wanted this course to end – but we were all quickly lifted once more. Those who were grading took to the floor later in the morning and it was congratulations to all who passed, especially to Nicole Taylor for passing her Shodan (black belt). The change in format saw a final session for everyone in the afternoon. The atmosphere was on fire with a kumite session which built to a crescendo with a sparring, with everyone mixing in and learning from each other. Truly – no one wanted this course to end. All students were raving about the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the superb instruction – it all left us wanting more, more, more.

Another shock was to come for me by way by being awarded Student of the Week alongside Fallon Rayman who picked up the accolade for the ladies. Thank you's were given to all instructors and others who helped make the week so special. All that remained was to hand out the certificates, sign the licences, and take the final bow...or and not forgetting throwing sensei Mottram in the pool. At the after-course party, everyone I spoke to and since then has said how for them, this course was the best yet. And that was all styles and grades. As for Ishinryu, I think it saw the beginning of a new dawn. Ishinryu - everybody one heart. But if they are not looked after correctly hearts can become weak and arteries can sometimes become clogged. Sometimes surgery needs to be performed to clear the blockages that prevent new blood from flowing freely. Once that is done the heart can once again function as one and pretty soon the whole body has a new lease of life and can become even stronger. Roll on next year – there’s no stopping us now!

The final word goes to sensei Donovan: “This course was a breath of fresh air, with new instructors coming forward and many others making a fantastic contribution to make it a great week. The past is in the past, it’s onwards and upwards.”

To get a chance to see what you can expect see the super summer course picture special at Book your place on the 2010 Summer Course by contacting Seawick Holiday Park Beach Road, St Osyth, Near Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. To book call 0845 815 9775 or logo onto for more information (When booking say you are on the karate course to guarantee accommodation).





Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Ticky's Summer Course Brochures over 34 years